Capitol Updates

Friday, June 2, 2023

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  • ACTION ALERT: Petition Drive to Gather 90K Signatures in90 Days
  • 2023 Legislative Session Sine Die Report
  • $5,000 Annual Student Loan Repayment Grant - Teachers Appy Now!
  • Review of Education Related Priority Bills

Petition Drive: 90K Signatures in 90 Days

The governor has signed LB753 into law, which will give public funds to private schools through a convoluted tax scheme that will hurt kids while benefitting the uber-rich and corporations. The majority of Nebraskans oppose giving public tax dollars to private schools and have rejected such attempts at the ballot box three times previously.

We encourage everyone to help Support Our Schools Nebraska which will launch a referendum petition drive on Tuesday, June 6, to collect more than 62,000 signatures needed to put the issue on the November 2024 General Election ballot. We’ve set a goal to gather more than 90,000 signatures – and can do so with your help! Visit Support our Schools for more information on the petition drive to repeal LB753.

Nebraska public schools educate 90% of all the kids in Nebraska. We need to keep our public schools strong. Other states that have bought into these tax voucher schemes ended up damaging their local public schools and communities. This is not the future we want for our young people in Nebraska nor our communities.

  • LB753 will lead to funding cuts that will weaken Nebraska’s public schools, will hurt kids, and will particularly hurt our rural communities.
  • LB753 will drain available funding from Nebraska’s public schools and give it to unaccountable private schools that discriminate against kids.
  • More than half of Nebraska’s 93 counties have no private schools.
  • LB753 will not help current private schools as only new students are eligible for these tax-funded private school tuition payments.

The NSEA will work with public school supporters and communities to give Nebraskans the opportunity to vote to repeal this harmful bill.

Please do these 2 things today: 

  1. WE ARE ENCOURAGING EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTS PUBLIC EDUCATION TO VISIT SUPPORT OUR SCHOOLS NEBRASKA AND SIGN UP TO KEEP OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS STRONG. We will work with Nebraska voters to repeal it through a referendum petition. Three times previously, Nebraska voters have rejected public dollars for private education at the ballot box. If most state lawmakers continue to ignore Nebraska voters' wishes, we will do all we can to allow them to repeal this harmful, ill-advised legislation.

2023 Legislative Session Sine Die Report

The Nebraska Legislature adjourned on Thursday, June 1, the last day of this year’s 90-day session. A total of 40 bills were submitted to the Governor for his approval. This session, senators introduced 820 new proposed bills and 19 proposed constitutional amendments. Your NSEA Government Relations team tracked over 174 different education and school finance related legislative proposals.

Here is a look at some of the main developments in the state’s education and school finance debate:

Omnibus Education Bill Adopted

On Thursday, June 1, the governor signed into law LB705, the Education Committee’s omnibus bill now containing 24 bills, including the bill itself. The NSEA did not fully support all 24 bills contained within this bill but, when taken as an entire package, we supported its enactment.

Here is a summary of each bill contained within the amendments to LB705:

LB705 changes the distribution of lottery funds used for education as follows:

  • Adopts the Behavioral Intervention Training and Teacher Support Act. Eight percent of lottery funds (about $2 million) will be used for training teachers in safe behavioral management strategies, tactics, and de-escalation procedures. Funding for the training courses will be coordinated with the Nebraska Department of Education's model behavioral management policy.
  • Creates the Career-Readiness and Dual-Credit Education Grant Program Act and changes provisions of the Excellence in Teaching Act. Eight percent of lottery funds (about $2 million) will be allocated to the Excellence in Teaching Cash Fund / Career Readiness and Dual Credit Fund. The Career Readiness and Dual Credit Education Grant will be administered by the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education. Grants will be provided to teachers enrolled in education pathways leading to qualification to teach dual-credit courses and career and technical education courses.
  • Establishes a Mental Health Training grant program funded with 1.5 percent of lottery funds administered by the State Department of Education. Applicants must describe how the training provided under the grant would prepare recipients to safely de-escalate crisis situations, recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and timely refer a student to available mental health services in the early stages of the development of a mental disorder.

LB153 Creates the Extraordinary Increase in Special Education Expenditures Fund to be funded by $2.5 million from the Education Future Fund for fiscal year 2023-24.

LB201 (Added by amendment on Select File) Provide a high school graduation requirement relating to federal student aid. Require all public high school students to complete the FAFSA prior to graduation. LB201 also includes an opt-out provision that can be completed by any parent, guardian, or other person standing in loco parentis to the student.

LB222 (Added by amendment on General File) Prescribes publicly funded colleges and universities in Nebraska from inquiring during the admission process as to an applicant’s criminal history or juvenile court record except as far as such information is required by state or federal law.

LB356 Redefines terms under the Nebraska Opportunity Grant Act.

LB372 Allows homeschooled students to participate in extracurricular activities in the school district in which they reside and directs school boards in their policy to require a homeschooled student to enroll in not more and no less than five credit hours offered by the school in any semester.

LB385 Creates the Nebraska Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act, which is funded by the Education Future Fund. The act's purpose is to incentivize the recruitment and retention of new teachers and teachers with a high-need certification. New teachers would be eligible for a $2,500 grant at the beginning of years two, four, and six. Teachers with a high-need certification will be eligible for a one-time grant worth $5,000 at the beginning of a school year in which such high-need subjects are taught by the grant recipient.

LB414 Provides standards and practices for public school option enrollment programs to ensure that children with special needs are not disqualified due to their special needs. AM689 offers clarifying language to address standards by which a school district may determine the way they manage option student applications and directs the school district in reporting requirements to the DOE regarding how option student applications are handled.

LB516 Appropriates $870,000 from the General Fund each fiscal year to carry out the School Safety and Security Reporting Act to continue serving Nebraska citizens via the Safe2HelpNE hotline.

LB520 Changes provisions relating to high school graduation requirements and academic content standards and the Computer Science and Technology Education Act.

LB585 (Added by amendment on General File) Amends current law to give schools greater flexibility in providing more comprehensive behavioral and mental health training that focuses on suicide awareness and prevention, which is required annually.

LB603 Incentivizes the recruitment of public-school teachers by allowing persons who possess a bachelor's degree and have been certified to teach through alternative organizations to become certified to teach in Nebraska after participating in a school district clinical experience for one semester in such individual’s first semester of employment.

LB632 Prohibits a school in a city of the metropolitan class from suspending a student in Pre-K through second grade. Exceptions are granted if such a student brings a deadly weapon on school grounds, or to a school-sponsored activity or athletic event, or in a vehicle being used for a school purpose or by a school employee.

LB647 Change provisions relating to the purchase and loan of textbooks for children enrolled in kindergarten to grade twelve of a private school.

LB648 Creates the High School Equivalency Grant Fund and appropriates $750,000 from the General Fund to assist institutions that offer high school equivalency programs and for expanding services and program to support the completion of the general education test.

LB698 Changes provisions relating to residency for enrollment in a public college or university.

LB703 Authorizes the Nebraska State College System and the University of Nebraska System to liquidate surplus property under their own authority.

LB708 Requires the Office of Probation Administration, the State Court Administrator, the State Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to enter into a memorandum of understanding for the sharing of data regarding data relevant to students who are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.

LB724 Addresses the on-going teacher shortage in Nebraska by removing basic skills testing from certification requirements, while retaining content knowledge testing requirements.

LB762 (Modified by amendment on Select File) Creates the Nebraska Teacher Apprenticeship Program to increase the number of teachers in Nebraska. Such participants may receive a grant of up to $3,000 per semester to fund educational expenses such as tuition, books, or other materials as required to receive a teaching certification. The bill further directs the legislature to transfer $1 million each fiscal year from the Education Future Fund to carry out this program.

LB774 (Added by amendment on General File) Updates the Student Discipline Act in pursuit of protecting rights to due process and fairness within an orderly and effective educational process.

LB787 Creates the STEEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship, Mathematics) Development Act using funds from the DOE Innovative Grant Fund. Such grants are to be used for developers to create learning platforms which provide game-based interaction to develop students in STEEM.

LB805 (Added by amendment on General File) - Allows for youth organizations listed in 36 U.S.C. Subtitle II, part B to provide information about said organization to students. Entities making such requests must provide information to the school in advance and be subject to a background check.

LB811 Changes provisions relating to the Student Discipline Act and provides for the use of physical intervention or removal from a class in response to student behavior, provides for behavioral awareness and intervention training, and changes provisions relating to lottery funds used for education.

State Commits More Funds for Public Schools

The Legislature, acting on a proposal from Gov. Jim Pillen’s School Finance Reform Committee, approved historically significant changes to funding for public schools in Nebraska. Changes include LB583, the addition of foundation aid of $1,500 per student and an increase in state funding for special education so that the combination of state and federal support would cover 80% of school district costs.

To sustain that commitment, the Legislature created an Education Future Fund in LB814 with an initial $1 billion investment, with plans to add $250 million a year. The NSEA Government Relations Team has long advocated for changes in the funding system that will help the state reduce its historic overreliance on property taxes to fund education, and the state’s commitment to fund the community college system and the new investment in K-12 schools are steps in the right direction.

We are concerned about separate legislation in LB243 that places a 3% revenue cap on school districts will be problematic because in some cases, modeling suggests that the amount they will receive in foundation aid and special education reimbursements will be less than the amount they will be required to drop their property tax request. School boards have the ability to go above the revenue cap, but in some instances, districts will still have less revenue available to fund education at a time of rising costs and staffing issues.

Nebraska K-12 Teachers - Apply Now!
$5,000 Annual Student Loan Repayment Grant

The Teach in Nebraska Today grant program will support 1,000 teachers by providing student loan repayment assistance for service as a Nebraska K-12 classroom teacher. The guidelines and application can be found here

The application closes on June 10, 2023, at 11:59 PM CST. 
The application requires your NDE Staff I.D. – find it

The Teach in Nebraska Today Act is a $5 million state program providing qualifying teachers with student loan repayment assistance of up to $5,000 annually for five years, with total assistance capped at $25,000 per person. 

Adopted as LB1218 in (2022) with strong support from the NSEA, the Teach in Nebraska Today Act was one of our top legislative priorities. NSEA knows that loan forgiveness is important for the recruitment and retention of quality teachers! 

Currently, we are not aware of any program that reimburses a graduate for previously paid-off college debt/expenses. However, there is a program for existing teachers to receive financial assistance with an advanced degree that the NSEA also successfully lobbied to enact: The Enhancing Excellence in Teaching (EETP)

Review of Education Related Priority Bills

Approved by Governor

LB103 (McDonnell) Change provisions of the School Employees Retirement Act
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB243 (Briese) Change the minimum amount of relief granted under the Property Tax Credit Act
NSEA Position: Oppose

LB298 (Linehan) Require collection and reporting of dyslexia in schools
NSEA Position: Support

LB583 (Sanders) Provide for foundation aid and special ed supplemental aid under TEEOSA
NSEA Position: Neutral

LB683 (Transportation) Create the Nebraska Broadband Office and provide duties
NSEA Position: Support

LB705 (Murman) Change provisions for the distribution of lottery funds used for education
NSEA Position: Support

LB727 (Linehan) Change sales and use tax exemption on purchases by state and public entities
NSEA Position: Oppose

LB753 (Linehan) Adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act and provide tax credits
NSEA Position: Oppose

LB754 (Linehan) Reduce individual and corporate income tax rates
NSEA Position: Oppose

General File

LB71 (Sanders) Change provisions to parental involvement in and access to learning materials
NSEA Position: Support

LB198 (McDonnell) Provide return to work in the State School Retirement and the Class V Acts
NSEA Position: Support

LB277 (Brewer) Adopt the First Freedom Act and authorize wearing of tribal regalia by students
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB385 (Linehan) Adopt the Nebraska Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act
NSEA Position: Support (amended into LB705)

LB447 (Bostar) Provide an income tax deduction and tuition waivers for certain employees
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB516 (Walz) Provide changes to hire school psychologists and providers
NSEA Position: Support (amended into LB705)

LB585 (Hughes) Change duty of state school security director and require behavioral training
NSEA Position: Support (amended into LB705)

LB630 (McKinney) Provide a duty to NDE and require school board adopt written dress code
NSEA Position: Support

LB647 (McDonnell) Change provisions for textbook purchase for children enrolled in private K-12
NSEA Position: Support (amended into LB705)

LB792 (Wayne) Provide for a pilot program for treating post-traumatic stress disorder
NSEA Position: Support

LB805 (von Gillern) Require schools to allow certain youth organizations to provide activities
NSEA Position: Monitor (amended into LB705)

In Committee

LB165 Include elementary and secondary schools in the Nebraska educational savings plan trust
NSEA Position: Oppose (removed from LB727)

LB341 (Halloran) Adopt the State and Political Subdivisions Child Sexual Abuse Liability Act
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB575 (Kauth) Adopt the Sports and Spaces Act
NSEA Position: Monitor